Five Enumclaw High students, accompanied by two faculty advisers, trekked more than 700 miles to Nevada for an extended Veterans Day weekend.
This was not holiday fun, however. The group hopped into a van and headed for Elko, Nevada, the site of this year’s Western National Rangeland competition. They left home Nov. 8 and returned Nov. 13, spending perhaps 25 hours in their rented ride.
Making the trip were Ryle Ruvalcaba, Katy King, Cole Hildebrand, Bailey Boyce and Hunter Schumacher, all members of their school’s FFA chapter. Also on the trip were faculty advisers Kaitlin Norton and Mark Berryhill.
The competition has been around for a decade but this was Enumclaw High’s first time participating.
The yearly contest is, according to its website, “a premier range judging event that is uniquely designed to be relevant to issues faced by land managers on western rangelands.” The website notes that rangeland landscapes dominate much of western North America, yet most people know little about the resources they provide or how the land is managed.
Norton said students were judged in five content areas. After returning, here’s how the Enumclaw students described the competition:
“Evaluating rangeland requires knowledge of environmental science, mathematics, and government/policy. It requires students to identify different types of grasses, forbes, and shrubs as well as their plant life cycles and nutritional value for wildlife and livestock. Students must be able to identify soil types and depth with just their hands as well as describe rangeland sites using their slope, aspect, and precipitation levels.”
In addition, students have to be able to make recommendations for land management decisions based on supply and demand of the environment and agriculture industry.
The Nevada competition included an awards dinner where students heard about rangeland career opportunities from natural resource management agencies and business operations.
The goal of this contest is to raise awareness about rangelands and introduce career opportunities to high school students.
Norton said the FFA chapter is already planning to attend next year’s competition. The trip won’t be nearly as long, scheduled for Baker City, Oregon.